Published : Saturday, January 21, 2012 00:00
Written by : Jomar Canlas, Reporter
NATIONAL Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Magtanggol Gatdula became the first casualty of a word war between President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, or Church of Christ) over the church’s alleged support for Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, it was suggested on Friday.
President Aquino said that he sacked Gatdula for insubordination in connection with the alleged kidnapping of undocumented Japanese citizen Noriyo Ohara and a supposed extortion attempt on her.
According to a well-placed source of The Manila Times, the church is quietly supporting Corona, since his defense team is led by retired High Court Justice and Iglesia member Serafin Cuevas.
Like the retired High Tribunal magistrate, Gatdula is also a member of the church.
The Times source pointed out that the dismissed NBI chief had tendered his resignation to Mr. Aquino and planned to leave his post in a graceful manner, but Malacañang decided not to accept it and fired him instead.
The Palace, the source said, wanted to humiliate Gatdula after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima held a press conference announcing his sacking over his alleged involvement in the Ohara case.
The President allegedly disliked the way the Church of Christ was supporting his enemies, whom he wanted to weed out from the government because they were considered barriers to his plans.
The soured relationship between Mr. Aquino and the church worsened after Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo province, the leader of the House panel prosecuting Corona at his impeachment trial in the Senate, disclosed that the Church of Christ was allegedly helping then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez—another enemy of the
President—to junk an impeachment complaint against her at the House.
Gutierrez was represented in the chamber by Cuevas at the time.
The relationship soured further when Mr. Aquino set aside the appointment of former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero to the Judicial and Bar Council and replaced him with Jose Mejia, a classmate of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
Tuquero—a known member of the church—was also shortlisted by the council for the Ombudsman post last year, but the President picked retired High Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales instead.
In explaining his reason for firing Gatdula, Mr. Aquino said also on Friday that de Lima had instructed the sacked bureau chief to transfer Ohara to the detention cell of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), but the former police general refused.
“BI was the proper venue. The order to transfer the person to the Bureau of Immigration was not carried out. That to me is insubordination. Now, at the end of the day, the head of the principal agencies will be a person who has our trust and confidence. The trust is no longer there,” the President pointed out.
With report from Jaime Pilapil